1. There are many fine points in this essay as concerns issues dealing with the creation of art but the verbose indeed prolix approach to obvious cross cultural observations becomes at least to me pointless. To laud praises on non-Christian traditional art and ignore similar trends in modernist art seems insincere yet it depends on which of Father’s essay one is reading it seems the author wants his cake and wants to eat it to. We have a kind of secula beata, how can one deny “noetic intuition “in some modernist painting as certainly it isn’t present in all traditional art. The situation we have here is a romanticizing of a mythical nostalgic better past, that so many thoughtful quotes would be used to gloss so many contradictory tired conclusions is in and of itself an exercise in nostalgia and ultimately unproductive . My question is, after hedging all bets in these essays what point is the author trying to make? I’v never seen a “gift” with so many strings attached.

    1. Never seen a gift with so many strings attached? How about Christianity?

      Seriously, though, to be fair to Fr. Silouan, please remember that this post is but a single chapter of his multi-part essay. The purpose of this chapter is, according to the first paragraph, to address the question of whether “there is a ‘traditional doctrine of art’ that encompasses both the Orthodox icon and the sacred art of other world civilizations?”

      So let’s not expect this one chapter to address the matter of modern art, since it is outside the author’s stated scope here. I too am rather curious where Fr. Silouan is going with all this. I suppose I shall have to wait until the end of the series to find out.

      1. Fair enough although it seems conclusions in this article contradict those in the previous article as concerns the modernist tradition.
        These articles and the ones on “degraded iconicity” are a strange amalgam of post-modernist rhetoric, patristics, and aesthetics that oft create a kind of ecclesiastical “art speak” which indeed seem to be hiding a “secula beata”, a good old days mentality. This is a contradiction within Orthodox tradition although very much a part of secular society and it is the former which it seems Fr. ultimately agrees with.

      2. “How about Christianity?”

        Matthew 11:30 😉

  2. Baker Galloway

    Dear Father Silouan,

    I always have to look up a lot of words when I read your articles! But I end up learning a lot. Nice article.

    I would like to point out that the examples of art you’re focusing on are all examples of art of essence, not art of compassion. Are you familiar with this distinction that Aidan Hart made in his article ” Christianity and Sacred Art Today”? Here’s a link:

    Anyway, there are some contemporary secular artists who are very inspiring and whom I do not consider to be preoccupied with self-expression. Though they do not point me to God in name, they can point me to wonder at the beauty in this world. Or alternatively they can point me to disgust at the evil in myself or compassion for others.

    Also, I am dissatisfied with your definition of Beauty as briefly cited. Please read my friend David Taylor’s definition in his article “On Beauty and the Art of Schooling” and see whether you might have a more nuanced version to share in your bullet-point list? Here is a link:

    As always, hubristically yours,

    1. Fr. Silouan Justiniano

      Dear Baker,

      I’m glad to hear that the articles have been helpful to you in one way or another.

      Yes, I’m familiar with Aidan Hart’s article “Christianity and Sacred Art Today”. He makes good points there worth considering.
      In fact, later on, towards the end of the current article, we might touch on some of his observations.

      I agree with the point you’re making about contemporary art. Although, nowadays what you are describing is more an exception than the rule.
      The artists you mention might not be solely concerned with a crass form of self-expression or self-indulgent exhibitionism, nevertheless, they still function within a paradigm of art that values individualism, among other things, as of primary importance.

      Your dissatisfaction,as it pertains to Beauty, doesn’t surprise me. Bear in mind exactly what you say, that is, we are dealing with “a brief definition” that only scratches the surface of a highly complex and challenging subject. We don’t have the time to elaborate in depth on the subject right now. Anyhow, what I wanted to emphasize was that, according to the Traditional Doctrine of Art, Beauty is not merely “in the [physical] eye of the beholder”, solely a subjective category, based on likes and dislikes, a matter of sensual self gratification. Rather it is the splendor of Truth or a name of God, and therefore objective Reality, apprehended both with the physical and spiritual eye, the nous. The beauty of Nature is nothing but the manifestation of God, a theophany, the radiance of the Logos in beings, since they are rooted in Him who is uncreated Beauty. Subjectivity is not completely ousted since, as someone once said, “…nothing can be known or stated except in some way, the way of the individual knower. Whatever may be known to you and me in common can only be stated by either of us each in his own way.” However, subjectivism takes second place of importance in the articulation of artistic forms of a traditional society. Although there will always be variation of styles they will always be grounded in the metaphysical principles that tie them all together, giving them unified continuity throughout the centuries. The metaphysical principles are based on the apprehension of Reality, a revelation, that transcends the limitations of individualism and shapes society. Hence, what matters the most in the art of a traditional society, is what is seen in common, Reality, the objectivity and truth of God/Beauty, the Sacred, in Nature. For an introduction into the patristic understanding of Beauty I recommend you read The Divine Names, Chapter 4:7, by St. Dionysius the Areopagite. I’ll take a look into the article by your friend as you suggested.

      Thank you once again for you comments and suggested articles.

      In Christ,
      Fr. Silouan

      1. Baker Galloway

        Sweet. Thank you, Fr. Silouan.

        I really like that idea in your quote of shared knowledge, or perhaps Truth, always being know and expressed in particulars, by specific persons who cannot help but be subjective. Well said.

        with your prayers,

  3. Hierodeacon Parthenios

    “Chronological Snobbery” [whether Ancient or Modern] vs The Timeless “Principles of Tradition”?

    We clearly side with the latter, as Fr Silouan has described, for Tradition is Christ the Logos, and His principles are not governed by their manifestation within any or all chronologies, ancient or modern, but by the Truth, which He Himself is.

    The Tradition is not defined, as Fr Silouan has expressed, by its external “chronology” [or one’s passing likes or dislikes], but rather by its abiding “principles”.

    And upon those grounds, we indeed may critique all ages, appreciating them accordingly.

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